Tuesday, April 23, 2024
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Seeking a place called home

Aqilah Rahman

At the end of 2022, about 108 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced due to persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations and events which seriously disrupted public order. Compared to the end of 2021, this represents an increase of 19 million – the largest increase between years, according to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

Over half of the increase was due to record numbers of refugees, asylum-seekers and others in need of international protection forced to flee last year. In February 2022, the invasion of Ukraine resulted in the fastest displacement crisis and one of the largest since World War II.

About 5.7 million fled the country in less than a year, which took Syria four years to reach the same level of displacement. While the situation in Ukraine escalated, conflict and insecurity in other parts of the world either continued or was reignited. 

The latest Global Trends report, published in June 2023, provides key statistical trends on forced displacement. It includes the latest official statistics on refugees, asylum-seekers, internally displaced and stateless people, and the number of refugees who have returned home.

The total number of refugees worldwide rose by a record 35 per cent, reaching 34.6 million at the end of 2022. This includes 5.1 million people in refugee-like situations and 5.2 million needing international protection. The increase was largely due to refugees from Ukraine fleeing the international armed conflict in their country and revised estimates of Afghans in Iran and Pakistan.

School girls at the Saranan refugee camp in Pishin district of Balochistan, Pakistan. PHOTO: AFP

Turkiye, Iran, Colombia, Germany and Pakistan hosted the largest refugee populations at the end of 2022, including those in refugee-like situations and those needing international protection. More than 87 per cent of all people who were refugees at the end of 2022 originated from just 10 countries.

Low-income countries continued to host a disproportionately large share of the world’s displaced people in terms of population size and resources available. Despite representing nine per cent of the global population and 0.5 per cent of the global gross domestic product, low-income countries hosted 16 per cent of refugees. The remaining refugees were hosted by lower-middle-income countries (26 per cent), upper-middle-income countries (33 per cent) and high-income countries (24 per cent).

Most people fleeing conflict and persecution remain near their country of origin. At the end of 2022, 70 per cent of refugees, including people in refugee-like situations and other people in need of international protection, were hosted by neighbouring countries. The number of refugees hosted in neighbouring countries dropped compared to previous years, primarily because many Ukrainians were hosted in countries that do not directly neighbour Ukraine.

Overall, over half of all refugees and other people in need of international protection came from just three countries: the Syrian Arab Republic (6.5 million), Ukraine (5.7 million) and Afghanistan (5.7 million). 

For individuals forced to flee, going home remained unattainable for the majority. Only 339,300 refugees were reported to have returned home in 2022, a 21 per cent decrease from the previous year. Meanwhile, 114,300 were resettled to a safe third country.

People who are forced to flee due to armed conflicts, generalised violence, or human rights violations but remain within their countries are known as internally displaced people (IDPs). By the end of 2022, UNHCR reported on situations of internal displacement in 35 countries. IDPs account for 58 per cent of all forcibly displaced people.  

Over the last decade, the number of IDPs protected and assisted by UNHCR has doubled, reaching 57.3 million at the end of 2022. Colombia and Syria reported the most significant number of people displaced within their countries, with 6.8 million each. Ukraine reported 5.9 million people, a sevenfold increase from end-2021 following the full-scale invasion of the country.

Aside from conflict and violence, natural disasters also contributed to internal displacement. During the year, 32.6 million internal displacements due to disasters were reported, of which 8.7 million remained displaced at the end of 2022. Disaster-related internal displacement accounted for more than half of all new displacements in 2022.

Pakistan reported the largest number of people displaced due to disasters after severe flooding, forcing 8.2 million to flee. Cyclones, floods and tropical storms in the Philippines and China displaced 5.4 million and 3.6 million people, respectively.

The trend of people being forced to flee will continue in 2023, driven by new and ongoing conflicts. Despite the risks, the report noted that refugees and displaced individuals will likely stay as close to their countries as possible.